Greenpeace joins locals to close Maptaput offices

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Greenpeace activists march through the Maptaput Industrial Estate.

Greenpeace activists in two inflatable boats invaded the Maptaput Industrial Estate, closing the main office and unfurling banners stating “pollution knows no borders” as part of a Southeast Asian tour by the environmental group’s “Rainbow Warrior” flagship.

About 10 Thais joined the foreign activists at the Oct. 1 demonstration with local Maptaput development opponent Thara Buakamsri chaining the gate to the industrial estate’s main office. Police blocked any attempts by the activists to enter the premises and the offices were reopened after an hour-long negotiation between Greenpeace, police and Maptaput Deputy Gov. Weerapong Chaiperm.

The activists last week added Rayong’s GHECO Glow 1 coal-fired power plant to its list of harmful industrial facilities and expressed its disappointment with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s proposed solution to ongoing opposition over Maptaput projects by erecting a buffer zone between the industrial estate and residential communities. Greenpeace said doing so attempts to “downscale and deny the problem” as well as “betrays the government’s ignorance about the nature of pollution itself.”

The Greenpeace demonstration capped the Thailand leg of its Rainbow Warrior ship’s “Turn the Tide” tour. Local activists continued their march at the Rayong Government Center with about 200 people led by Sutthi Atchasai calling for the cancellation of 11 projects they deem dangerous. Flanked by riot police, the group presented a letter for Deputy Industry Minister Puthipong Punakan, who oversees Maptaput.

The letter calls for a review of the 11 projects, a cabinet-level resolution for new regulations on Maptaput investments and public disclosure of city planning records.

The group warned if no action is taken on its demands, it will stage demonstrations again.

Punakan said the Maptaput problem cannot be solved in one day and not always in ways that satisfies everyone. He assured the activists that they and the government share the same goal of protecting residents from pollution and asked for their cooperation.